Chinese sweet and sour sauce possibly is the most famous Chinese sauce. There are so many yummy dish made with this sauce including sweet and sour chicken, sweet and sour pork etc. I have received e-mails and facebook message asking about how to make Chinese sweet and sour sauce. Elaine has decided to introduce different Chinese combined stir-fry sauces so you can use them directly with your own recipe creations.

Chinese sweet and sour sauce is known as 糖醋汁 in Chinese and is a type of sauce used mainly in quick stir-fry recipes in China. Basically, the main ingredient should be deep-fried or pan-fried firstly before tossing with the sauce in wok . This cooking method is named as “溜” in Chinese which meaning stir-fry and cook very quickly.

Chinese sweet and sour sauce

Everyone may have a unique sweet and sour sauce. If you do not like sour taste that much, you can reduce the vinegar or lemon juice slightly or add a little bit more sugar.In different Chinese cuisines, Chinese sweet and sour sauce is widely been used. For example, sweet and sour pork tenderloin(糖醋里脊) from Sichuan cuisine, Guo Bao Rou (锅包肉) from Northern China, sweet and sour ribs and sweet and sour fish in Jiangsu province.

There are many variations of Chinese sweet and sour sauce. Some use tomato sauce while others just use vinegar and sugar directly. Following are two most commonly used recipe for tuning Chinese sweet and sour sauce.

Have a look of all of the basic sauces and condiments we are going to use for perfect Chinese sweet and sour sauce.  They are green onion, garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, ketchup, and black vinegar, and dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, cooking wine, sugar and starch. You do not need to use them all in one type of Chinese sweet and sour sauces. Just basic information for ingredients! If you need more information about the sauces and condiments for Chinese cooking, check Chinese Sauces.

Chinese sweet and sour sauce

Now comes to this Chinese sweet and sour sauce with ketchup—this is the all-purpose sauce for around 500 g foods or making a rice bowl dipping sauce

Chinese sweet and sour sauce

You can follow the step to make a perfect Chinese sweet and sour sauce or mixing all the ingredients together for a quicker version.

Chinese sweet and sour sauce

Chinese sweet and sour sauce

Chinese Sweet and Sour Sauce

All-purpose Chinese sweet and sour sauce, for around 500g food or a small rice bowl of dipping sauce! How to use it, add your fried chicken, pork, fish, shrimp, tofu and whatever you want before or after adding water starch!
4.75 from 20 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: sauce
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: sweet and sour
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Author: Elaine


  • 2 middle size garlic cloves , minced
  • 1 tsp. minced ginger
  • 1 tsp. green onion white
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil

Basic sweet and sour sauce

  • 4 tbsp. ketchup
  • 8 tbsp. water , 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. light soy sauce
  • a small pinch of salt if needed

Water starch

  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp water


  • Heat up vegetable oil in pan or wok; add garlic, green onions and ginger to stir-fry for around 2 minutes or until aroma with low fire.
  • Then pour the basic sauce to the wok, bring all the content to a boiling. And add water starch in. Keep on stirring in the process.


If rice vinegar is not available, you can use lemon juice to replace it.

Chinese sweet and sour sauce

This sauce with ketchup is mainly used for recipes with a bright color including sweet and sour chicken, sweet and sour pork with pineapple, sweet and sour shrimp.

Wait, it is still not the end. 

Another way to prepare Chinese sweet and sour sauce: Ginger, garlic and green onions are always needed for a basic taste layer.  However if the main ingredients is marinated with ginger and green onion water previously, they can be skipped.

Chinese sweet and sour sauce with darker color

  • 2 middle size garlic cloves
  • 1 root ginger
  • 1 green onion
  • 1 tablespoon cooking wine
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons water

This is a traditional Chinese sweet and sour sauce mainly used in traditional dishes for example sweet and sour ribs and sweet and sour fish etc. However, if the sauce is used for marinating before frying, water can be skipped. Example dish: sweet and sour ribs.

When seeing a recipe calls for vinegar, you may wonder whether to use white vinegar or black vinegar, right? For some recipes needing a bright color, please use white vinegar and light soy sauce only. And for others with a heavier caramelized color, black vinegar should be the first choice.

Combined spicy Chinese sweet and sour sauce

  • 2 middle size garlic cloves
  • 1 root ginger
  • 1 green onion
  • 1 tablespoon cooking wine
  • 1 teaspoon spicy chili oil or several dried chili peppers (a combination is also great)
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons water

This can be used in many spicy and sour meat dishes, for example spicy and sour pork belly, spicy and sour meat ball etc.

Please note that the amounts of the basic ingredients might be changed depending on the particular recipe for example if pineapple is add as side vegetables, then reduce the amount according and vinegar should be avoided.

Wow, this is a long page and I hope you like it. Thanks for visiting.

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  1. 4 stars
    I am wondering if using a sweet and sour base like you started minus the ketchup, and add carrot slivers to the onion, ginger, garlic mix and sauté and pineapple chunks, at last minute or two of stir fry/sauté in as well!! And then add all liquids, the sour, either vinegar or lemon juice, and use pomegranate and pineapple juice and cornstarch water to thicken, does that sound like a good S & S sauce to you?…… sweet from the pom juice and a bit from the pineapple juice plus some acidic properties from the pineapple, plus the sour/acidic from the rice vinegar or white vinegar or lemon juice! Add sugar only if needed!
    So basically sauté;
    Green onion or yellow or white onion
    Ginger minced
    Garlic minced
    Shaved Slivers of carrots…slice using a peeler down a side make about 2″ long
    Pineapple chunks
    Then add in;
    Water ……1 part if needed ie. 1c.
    Vinegar or lemon juice….1\4 part 1\4c
    Pomegranate juice …..1 part. 1c
    Pineapple juice 1 part 1c
    Sugar if needed to taste beginning with 1tsp
    Starch water to thicken 1\4c 2tsp starch if not enough to thicken add another measure as listed!
    1 TBS, soy sauce… if you like it in your sauce, I don’t like much it at all, I don’t want to taste it!
    This is my take on it! If one cannot find just pom juice, one could use cherry pom juice!!! Or even grenadine syrup if it is easier to find than pom juice…funny they are they same but the syrup has been thickened of course and it has a bit of lemon and orange flower water in there also!!! So either would work!!!

    I have a family to cook for and even this quantity gets gobbled up quick!! I’m going off memory here and haven’t made in forever, so may need to tweak a bit with ratios, maybe!!! ?

    I hope you try and enjoy! ??????
    All of my love ? and the love,? blessings, ? and grace ? of our LORD & SAVIOUR, unto you and yours?, today and always!!!!

    1. Suzanne,
      Yes, the sauce described by me is very appealing to me. There are various ways via which we can get a sweet and sour taste, pineapple juice, passion fruit, lemon juice and orange juice, all of them are great ingredients. I will try later with your recipe and hope to make a more fruity sweet ands our sauce.

  2. 5 stars
    Hi Elaine!

    I tested your basic S&S sauce with deep fried chicken today. It tasted far more better than the most of the other recipes I had tried earlier. I just added some black vinegar in order to achieve richer taste because personally, I can’t stand for “western fusion Uncle Ben’s like” S&S sauce taste.

    However, I still wonder how the local Chinese restaurant in my home town make their S&S sauce with tofu and chicken. Its colour is light yellow, a bit like chicken stock, so it doesn’t contain ketchup and black vinegar at least. The taste is rather strong S&S, stronger than I achieved using your recipe. Would you have any advice how to make something similar? Replace ketchup with pineapple juice or…? Thank you in advance!

    You’ve such a lovely site. The food is so much better than the food served here in many Chinese restaurants. ♡

    1. Hi Susan,
      Sorry I cannot figure out the exact the recipe of that sweet and sour sauce mentioned in your comment.

      We do have several types of sweet and sour sauce in China for example the taste can be achieved with sugar and black vinegar(the color can be quite dark) or sugar with white vinegar (a light yellow color). However it also might be achieved by other fruit juice for example orange juice or pineapple juice. My brother loves to cook sweet and sour sauce simply with store-bought orange juice. So sorry I cannot give a helpful comment. A picture, if possible might be quite help for defining the recipe.

  3. 5 stars
    This sauce was delicious and so easy to make with ingredients I already had on hand! It was a great way to spice up our regular stir fry

    1. Thank you, Amanda. There are many different approaches for a sweet and sour taste, I always want to make a sauce with the most common ingredient. Happy cooking with the lovely flavor.

  4. Hi Elaine,

    you mention “However if the main ingredients is marinated with ginger and green onion water previously, they can be skipped”. I don’t quite understand this. I have have seen several recipes on your site where meat is precooked using ginger and green onions, mainly to remove blood and other residues. But I can’t remember any marinating which I would presume to happen with a smaller amount of cold or cooled down liquid. Could you maybe explain this?

  5. I made sweet and sour sauce for the first time
    But its turn out ok colour and consistency but taste a bit flat I can taste slight vinegar but no flavour taste or does that come when u add pineapple onions etc and chicken I put extra sugar in but made no difference

    1. Chaz, this simplified version do taste slightly different from those version with pineapple or orange juice. I will introduce the difference later.

  6. 5 stars
    Hello Elaine, I would like to try a sweet and sour sauce and your recipe looks most interesting. I like the ginger and onion ingredients which would enhance the flavors more I am sure. Looking forward to using this shortly. I would like to add peppers for color and perhaps carrots with the meat and let the sauce do it’s thing. Cannot wait to try this. Thank you for sharing..

    1. This is a very basic and popular Chinese style of sweet and sour sauce. You can enhance it based on personal choice.